The Morris School District will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary as the only school district in New Jersey created by a court order during a two-day celebration, Oct. 1 to Oct. 2.
As the district states on its website, it was created by a court order that mandated the merging of Morristown and Morris Township schools to promote racial integration. Jenkins v. Twp. of Morris School Dist. and Bd. of Ed. was decided June 25, 1971, and schools for the newly formed Morris School District formally opened Sept. 7, 1972.
After the court order, Morris School District was referred to as “The Lighthouse” to be a beacon for other communities. Since then, the district has embarked on a historic journey to unite its communities.
“We continue to build a healthy community, move toward greater equity and inclusion, work to diminish achievement gaps, and raise the bar for educational excellence precisely because the fundamental values that underlie the district’s enduring aspirations are shared values,” the district said in a statement.
“We are proud that the Morris School District has the unique distinction of being the only district in New Jersey and in the United States to have been formed for the purpose of racial integration,” said Morris School District Interim Superintendent Dr. Thomas Ficarra. “Throughout these 50 years, the district has worked to maintain and support diversity, equity and inclusion in our schools as we are deeply committed to protecting and perpetuating the unique legacy of the district. We look forward to commemorating this landmark decision with community events the weekend of October 1st.”
The Morris Educational Foundation has played a leading role in planning the events recognizing the anniversary. The foundation was founded in 1992 by Stephen B. Wiley, lead counsel in the MSD merger, to generate and distribute resources to support and enhance the district’s schools.
“The MEF is proud to support and celebrate the anniversary of the Morris School District,” said Joelle Servais, executive director of the Morris Educational Foundation. “Our partnership – between the MSD and the MEF – created a legacy that endures today as we continue to collaborate and respond to the emerging needs of our students, teachers and families in the post-pandemic landscape.”
Public Invited to Events
On Saturday, Oct. 1, the Lighthouse Exhibit opens to the public at the Morristown and Morris Township Library at 1 Miller Road in Morristown. The exhibit explores the merger, how the district implemented changes and its impact on students, residents and the community.
Also on Oct. 1, Morristown High School at 50 Early St. in Morristown will be offering student-led tours of the high school from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., which will include information highlighting the historic merger. You must preregister for a tour.
On Sunday, Oct. 2, Morris School District and the Morris Educational Foundation will share information about the district’s storied history at a booth at the Morristown Festival on the Green from noon to 5 p.m.